New research carried out beneath the Antarctic ice has dealt a blow to a favourite cosmic ray theoryOne hundred years after they were first discovered, cosmic rays are still giving scientists headaches. Observations made at the IceCube neutrino observatory at the south pole, and published in Nature last week, appear to have eliminated a favoured possible source for the most intensely energetic types of these extraordinary emanations.Cosmic rays are subatomic particles, mostly protons, that hit the upper atmosphere with a wide range of energies and trigger showers of other particles that stream down to the ground. They are thought to be responsible for about 10-15% of the natural background radiation that we experience on Earth.Scientists have traced the multiple origins of most cosmic rays – the sun is a major emitter, for example – but despite struggling with the problem for 100 years, they have been unable to establish the source of...
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